I ventured out to the West End before week 4 of classes began. I wanted to see the Botanical Gardens before it got too chilly out. I have a fear of using public transportation; I think I fear the combination of not being able to figure out how to buy a ticket and getting on the wrong train/bus. I was determined to figure out how to use the Glasgow subway system and was not going to chicken out by walking all the way to the West End (not that it's a terribly long walk, but I really needed to confront my fear head-on). Thankfully, the subway here has two lines that run in a circle. There is the inner loop that runs anti-clockwise (notice the new-for-me terminology) and the outer loop that runs clockwise. There was no way I could mess this up. I found the sign that had the stop for Hillhead and went down to the platform. The subway came within a couple of minutes and I hopped on. Secretly, I get a thrill from taking subways. I think because they remind me of Disney World. :)
When I got off at the Hillhead stop and walked out onto the street, I pulled out my map and tried to find my location. Hmmm... poor planning here. I was off the map. I went back into the subway station and asked the lady working at the desk if they sold maps. She looked at me as if I had five heads and said, "No. Where do you need a map for?" Hmmm ... Japan! Where do you think I need a map for??? So I politely said that I needed a map for that area, did she know where I could find one? She offered me a shake of the head and glanced over at her co-worker who suggested I try stopping in a bookstore to find a map. Ok. I may never find the Botanical Gardens.
I exited the subway station and chose a direction. I went right. I walked a couple of blocks and found a bookstore. I popped in, and saw that they had maps, but not nearly the sort I was looking for. They were old, used, novelty type maps that would not do me any good. So, I kept walking to the right. I recognized one building that I walked by from the Hop-on Hop-off bus that I had taken a few weeks back, so I felt a tiny bit of reassurance. Yay! A big map at the intersection! Oh, there, I see the Botanical Gardens on it! Oh... I am standing right across the street from the main entrance to the Botanical Gardens... At least I chose right and found it rather quickly with just minor frustration.
Where to begin?
I ventured into here first and what a beautiful entrance. I think I will move into the east wing.
Strangers taking my picture are part of the joys of traveling solo.
Frankly, I was very upset that these trees do not have enough room to properly grow upward. I didn't like how they were smashed into the ceiling. This poor planning is quite worse than my not realizing I didn't bring an appropriate map with me.
Nonetheless, I was still captivated by the beauty of some of these plants. This is a silver tree that has velvety silver hairs that grow from the leaves. It was really pretty.
Here is another view of the silver tree. Again, not enough room to grow up, but I loved the look of it in all of its shimmery silver glory.
After moseying around the conservatory, I ventured back outside and found my way down to this bridge. I like adventures, so I wandered across the bridge to see what was on the other side.
I walked aimlessly through the park, enjoying the brisk weather and the wondrous sights along the way.
The next time my dogs misbehave, I will tell them, "No fouling!" :) This was the first time I realized how many dogs are walked off-leash in Glasgow. They happily ran around, going wherever their noses led them, and were obedient to their owners. I could not believe that none of the dogs came up to me. They were all well-behaved and in their own, happy doggie worlds. If my dogs had been in the park off-leash, I think they would have been running up to every person, with tails wagging, "saying" "Pet me! Love me! Throw the ball for me!"
I continued walking and walking, and started to feel a little lost. I did like seeing this bridge though; it is so massive and ... handsome. Can I say that a bridge is handsome? I think so.
After a few wrong turns, I found my way back to the glasshouses. When I entered this glasshouse, I thought that maybe I had found the warmest place in Scotland.
Gripe - ladies, this is no place for a stroller. You are going to inconvenience every person you encounter through the glasshouse. This is also not a zoo. It is not nearly as exciting for your little ones to wander through here as you think it might be.
I love elephant ear plants and this was the biggest one I had ever seen.
Here, let me show you just how big it was. :)
The desert room.
It's Predatory Plant time! Can you spot the victim?
This shot is a little better. Can you see it now?
I really liked the look of this plant. It has such fine leaves that are almost scale-like.
Au revoir, Botanical Gardens! I had a lovely, peaceful afternoon here and hope to make it back for a nice stroll around the park before my time here is through.
On my way back to the subway from the Botanical Gardens, I stopped in a couple of cute shops and then spotted......... a REAL grocery store! I was so excited! I had been doing my grocery shopping at Aldi, the Co-operative, and Sainsbury and they are all so, so tiny with very limited offerings. I stepped into Waitrose and was overwhelmed by the sheer size of it (as compared to the dollhouse-sized stores I had been shopping in). I had to keep in mind that I was taking the subway back, so I couldn't go too crazy, but I picked up this adorable butternut squash, spinach, and pumpkin seed tart.
It was sooo rich, but sooo good.
At this point, I will mention that I met a local. My local was excited to show me around Glasgow, and at our first meeting, took me to a few pubs in the area. I finally tried Guiness (though for the sake of authenticity, I should have tried it while I was in Ireland) at All Bar One, which is rather close to George Square. My local seemed to have lots to tell me about Scotland, it's history, it's people, and it's culture. Perfect. For a change of scenery and a touch of history, we headed a couple of blocks over to the Horseshoe Bar, which has been in operation since 1846. We then headed off to another pub to get a bite to eat. I don't remember the name, but I had my first fish 'n' chips in Scotland here.
My local suggested we meet up for lunch the following week, so we met at La Lanterna near the train station. I had the Minestrone (way too big for an appetizer!) and the Risotto Pollo e Verdurine, which was quite nice. We enjoyed our lunch and I learned a bit more about Scotland.
I cannot eat a banana once it has spots on it. Ick, yuck, gross. I have been eating yogurt with honey, bananas, and berries for breakfast every day, and I happened to have milk, frozen berries, and a spotted banana on this morning. Because I couldn't possibly eat the spotted banana just with berries and honey, I decided to make a smoothie with my fork. It was more like a chunkie, but it was tasty.
My favorite meal to date: egg, baked beans, and roasted okra, tomatoes and portobello mushroom. This is a full Irish breakfast, Jessica style. I will provide you all with a laugh here. I wanted the veggies to cool down quick after I cooked them, and I feel like our overcrowded refrigerator does not cool things down fast enough, so I stuck my gorgeous plate of roasted veggies in the freezer, and proceeded to totally forget about them. I don't know if there are any foods worse than tomatoes and mushrooms that one can accidentally leave in the freezer. I realized my mistake that evening and put the plate back into the fridge. You can breathe a sigh of relief - all was not ruined, I continued to enjoy my full vegetarian Irish breakfasts throughout the week.
Friday night I hosted game night for my international friends. I purchased a very expensive Pictionary (29 pounds = ~$45 USD), but everyone chipped in a couple of pounds to help me pay for the game. I thought Pictionary would be a fun way for everyone to practice their English and have a good night away from schoolwork. We had so much fun, and because it is the UK version, I learned some new words as well!
Stay tuned for Loch Lomond!